USB4 = USB 3.x + Thunderbolt 3

Posted on March 5, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware with 30 Comments

MacBook Pro is all USB-C/Thunderbolt 3

The USB Promoter Group said that it will incorporate Thunderbolt 3 capabilities into its USB4 specification. Which you just know will have stupid marketing name like “Super-Duper High-Speed USB.” Because USB Promoter Group.

“The primary goal of USB is to deliver the best user experience combining data, display and power delivery over a user-friendly and robust cable and connector solution,” said USB Promoter Group Chairman Brad Saunders, ignoring the fact that the primary problem with USB is that it is confusing and decidedly non-user-friendly. “The USB4 solution specifically tailors bus operation to further enhance this experience by optimizing the blend of data and display over a single connection and enabling the further doubling of performance.”

As you may know—I recounted the awful details recently in USB Couldn’t Be More Screwed Up (Premium)—USB is a confusing mess, and the USB Promoter Group just made it even more confusing with USB 3.2. Sorry, with SuperSpeed USB 20Gbp, as it will stupidly be called. The goal with that version is to double the effective data transfer speed of USB 3.x to 20 Gbps.

And the problem with that effort, of course, is that Thunderbolt 3—which, confusingly, is delivered via some but not all Type-C ports—is still twice as fast, at 40 Gbps. So the USB Promoter Group will eventually solve the problem by just incorporating Thunderbolt 3 and its 40 Gbps transfer speeds into the USB4 spec. Which again will absolutely be called something else whenever it arrives.

This begs a number of questions, the most obvious of which is, why even bother with USB 3.2? Why not just jump right to USB4? After all, Thunderbolt 3 has been available for years, and adding yet another type of USB with its own weird and unique capabilities will just further confuse an already confused market. (Also, why is it called USB4, and not USB 4 or USB 4.0?)

The USB Promoter Group has no answer to that. Because, again, USB Promoter Group.


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